The Bears turned back the clock to 2006, romping ugly Sunday in a 48-24 second-half demolition of Detroit that left Lions coach Jim Schwartz sounding like Dennis Green.

The Bears turned back the clock to 2006, romping ugly Sunday in a 48-24 second-half demolition of Detroit that left Lions coach Jim Schwartz sounding like Dennis Green.

“One of the worst halves of football I’ve even been associated with,” Schwartz said. “We were poor on special teams. We were poor on offense. We were poor on defense. We were outcoached. We were outplayed. Their trainers were probably better than ours in the second half.”

Several of Chicago’s names have changed, but the style was the same the Bears used when they reached the Super Bowl in 2006 and left Green ranting “they are who we thought they were” after a Monday night comeback in the Arizona desert that featured virtually no offense. The Bears tied for second in NFL in points three years ago despite ranking only 15th in offense.
Sunday, the Bears put up 48 points despite gaining 276 yards – only three more than Detroit had at halftime.

“Offensively, we didn’t get into a rhythm,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “It’s tough to score 48 points with that few yards.”

As in 2006, thank the Bears defense and special teams. Chicago needed to go only 35, 8 and zero yards for it’s second, third and fourth touchdowns, thanks to a 24-yard punt return by Devin Hester, an interception by Tommie Harris and a 102-yard kickoff return by Johnny Knox – 1 yard shy of Gale Sayers’ team record – to open the second half.

“That’s killer right there,” Lions running back Kevin Smith said of the Knox return that put Chicago (3-1) ahead to stay, 28-21.

And Chicago’s returns never stopped coming. Earl Bennett added two punt returns of at least 20 yards after Hester left with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter, and Knox and Danieal Manning added two more kick returns of more than 40 yards.

“We’ve won a lot of games based on what our special teams have done,” coach Lovie Smith said.

Sunday, that included four punts, all inside the 20, without a single return yard allowed, and a 52-yard field goal by Robbie Gould, the first 50-yarder of his career.

But it was the return yards, particularly the touchdown by Knox, that had the biggest 2006 feel.
“I saw a big hole and I hit it,” Knox said. “It was a counter, so sell it one way and then bounce it the other.”

The Bears needed those returns because the Lions (1-3) used a pair of defensive penalties and seven plays of at least 10 yards, starting with a game-opening 45-yard pass to Calvin Johnson, to take a 14-7 lead on their first two possessions.

After Chicago went ahead 21-14 on TD passes of 2 yards to Kellen Davis and 1 yard to Greg Olsen on fourth down, the Lions tied it at the half on a 98-yard drive.

“Lovie doesn’t get angry, but that’s as red as he’s ever gotten. He … was … hot,” defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said, slowly spacing out his words. “He said something to me before I even came off the field. He never curses, but, wow, Lovie was (ticked).

“We responded.”

With Ogunleye (2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery) leading the way, the Bears held Detroit to minus-3 yards on 12 plays in the third quarter. Rookie No. 1 overall draft pick Matt Stafford finished with 296 yards, but was sacked five times and had two turnovers, including a fumble on an Israel Idonije sack. Also, Calvin Johnson had 119 yards receiving in the first half, but only 14 in the second half after the Bears had cornerback Charles Tillman shadow him.

“The secret is having a great defensive line,” Tillman said. “I credit myself for nothing. I give all the credit to them. Any time they play like that, my job is 10 times easier.”

That’s an old winning formula by Chicago, which also added a dash of the running game for the first time. Matt Forte broke off runs of 61 and 37 yards to finish with 121 yards on 12 carries after averaging 2.5 yards in his first three games.

The difference in 2009 is that winning with great defense and special teams doesn’t feel like enough for a Jay Cutler-led offense.

 “That says we can be pretty good,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said of the offense being dissatisfied. “And we will be good when we put it all together. We’re not even close to being as good as we can be offensively. We scored 48 points, and I don’t feel like we had a great day.”

It sure beat the Lions’ day.

Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.